Still a teenager, Leon Bailey has arguably made the biggest impact of any young player in European competition this season with his four goals in Genk’s run to the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
Name: Leon Bailey
Debut: 21 August 2015 v Sint-Truiden
Born: 9 August 1997
Preferred foot: left
They say …
“He’s a rough diamond with a lot of talent. The ‘street footballer’ in him needs to mature, but he’s a smart boy. He’s developing himself within the team in a structured way, as a team player.”
Former Genk coach Peter Maes
“He’s so fast it’s not normal. His speed, combined with his technique, is very rare. Exceptional. He has no weak points.”
Erstwhile Ajax coach Frank de Boer
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Bailey travelled to Europe and spent time with Genk before moving on to Slovakian club Trenčín in 2013. He returned to Genk and signed a professional contract in August 2015 upon turning 18. Less than two weeks later he made his senior debut and finished the season as Belgium’s young player of the year.
Playing style …
Bailey is usually deployed on the wing, left or right, and can also play centre forward. His speed, dribbling ability and shooting proficiency mean he can fashion something out of nothing.
Shades of …
His close control, dribbling and liking for shots from all angles are reminiscent of Ronaldinho.
Eureka moment …
Bailey introduced himself to a wider audience by scoring twice against Rapid Wien on UEFA Europa League matchday one, his first a fine shot into the top left-hand corner. It was ultimately in vain, though, as Genk lost 3-2.
Best-case scenario …
A good second half of the season will ready Bailey, reported to be on the scouting list of several European heavyweights, for the next step towards a career at the top of the game.
He says …
“When I came here I wanted to stay for two years because that’s a step I need to take, to develop as much as possible. So I decided to stay to develop more and get more experience and whenever I make the move hopefully it will be to somewhere where I’m going to feel comfortable, play a lot of games and get better.”
“I’m a person who likes to be competitive, so I like to play against tough teams. This [being involved in the UEFA Europa League] is the development I need.”